LOS ANGELES TIMES
White House climate documents sought -- Waxman demands
answers as his House oversight panel hears testimony of
administration interference in global warming reports.
Richard Simon, Times Staff Writer
January 31, 2007
WASHINGTON — Following through on the Democratic Party's pledge to conduct aggressive oversight,
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) headed toward a possible confrontation Tuesday with the
White House over his demands for documents that could show whether the Bush administration
interfered with the work of government climate scientists to downplay the dangers of global warming.
Waxman, presiding over his first hearing as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee, did not threaten to issue subpoenas, but said he would "insist on Congress' right" to the
Waxman and the committee's top Republican, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, sent a strongly
worded letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, calling on it to "reconsider the
confrontational approach" and produce the documents within 10 days.
"The committee isn't trying to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate
national security," said Waxman, complaining that he and Davis had been asking for the documents for
six months. "We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House's political staff is
inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists."
Davis added: "We have every right to understand what the science is showing and how the
administration is spinning it."
A spokeswoman for the Council on Environmental Quality said allegations that the administration had
attempted to interfere with the work of climate scientists were false. Kristen Hellmer also said the
agency had provided more than 10,000 pages of documents and would try to work with the committee.
The oversight hearing was one of the first to be held by the new Democratic majority in Congress.
Waxman, a lawmaker with a reputation as an investigatory pit bull, plans to hold four hearings next
week on fraud, waste and abuse in government spending in Iraq and other areas.
Tuesday's hearing was prompted by reports that administration appointees, including a former oil
industry lobbyist who was chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality, edited climate change
reports or pressured scientists to tone down statements about the dangers of global warming.
The White House has opposed mandatory caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases
blamed for global warming, contending the caps could be costly to industry and harm the economy.
Waxman said that the evidence examined by his staff strongly suggested that administration officials
had attempted to "mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming."
He cited documents that were edited to add "balance" by emphasizing the "beneficial effects" of
climate change, to delete a discussion of the human health and environmental effects of climate
change, and to remove the statement that changes "observed over the last several decades are likely
mostly the result of human activities."
Appearing before the committee, Rick Piltz, a former official in the U.S. Climate Change Science
Program who is now director of Climate Science Watch for the Government Accountability Project, a
"whistle-blower protection" group, said he experienced firsthand the administration's "politicization of
"Administration political officials appeared increasingly to take an interest in managing the flow of
communications pertaining to climate change in such a way as to minimize the perception that
scientifically based communications might be seen as conflicting with the administration's political
message on climate change policy," he said.
During the hearing, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that it had found 150 government
scientists who said they had experienced political interference in their work in the last five years.
Drew Shindell, a NASA scientist, said that the title of a press release was "softened" from its original
"Cool Antarctica May Warm Rapidly This Century, Study Finds" — which probably diminished media and
public interest in the report. "While it was frustrating for me to see my work suppressed, even more
importantly, it is a disservice to the public to distort or suppress the information needed for decision-
making," he said in written testimony.
Davis, however, said that he hadn't seen evidence of anything other than an administration attempting
to put its own political spin on research, something he said that Democratic and Republican
administrations had done. "What you have are a lot of disgruntled scientists who don't like the policies
of the administration," he said.
Freshman Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) also expressed concern about the focus of future oversight
hearings, contending that Tuesday's hearing seemed "less about finding answers than making an
He said he hoped he was wrong, but added, "I hope it is not a foretaste of contentious partisanship
cloaked as oversight."
See SCIENCE FOR SALE, below)
| Wildflowers of the Pribilof Islands
| Environmental Science Derailed:
Political Interference in Global Warming Research
1. White House Climate Documents Sought -- During a recent hearing, the Union of Concerned Scientists
found 150 scientists who said they had experienced political interference in their work in the last
five years. (See article by Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, below)
2. SCIENCE FOR SALE (see below), an article by Los Angeles attorney, Al Meyerhoff, explores
the development of a "partnership" between petro-giant, BP, and the University of California at
Berkeley, involving $500 million for an Energy Biosciences Institute.
3. AL MEYERHOFF In Memoriam Environmental Lawyer sued for justice and equality
in the workplace, and supported academic freedom and university independence from corporate
manipulation. (Click here: Al Meyerhoff, In Memoriam)
Sunday, April 15, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
BP, which likes to tout itself as "Beyond Petroleum," is the oil company that knows how to be a good
corporate citizen. Never mind the pesky oil spill in Alaska last year that shut down the pipeline. Forget
about those human rights violations in Colombia. Ignore that $183 million air pollution lawsuit just filed
by the California Air Resources Board. We must have this "green" company all wrong.
What else could explain the apparent willingness of a fine public institution like UC Berkeley to be on
the verge of entering into a "partnership" with the petro-giant -- accepting $500 million to fund an
Energy Biosciences Institute? Maybe this gift will get us off foreign oil. Maybe BP's largess is without
strings. Maybe pigs have wings. Actually, if approved, this deal is the most egregious example of
"science for sale" at most American universities. Through such arrangements, corporations are able to
leverage far greater amounts of public funds to accomplish their commercial research agenda. In a very
real sense, the university becomes the lab of the company. Taxpayer-funded scientists (and
most importantly graduate students) do their bidding, and the results receive the university's Good
Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
Don't shed too many tears for those UC scientists however. If history is any guide, they will fare very
well, thank you -- with lucrative "consulting" contracts, patent royalties, or by later serving BP as
well-paid "independent" expert witnesses. As a UC Davis professor once put it during the previous
biotechnology "revolution," "It's like the invasion of the body snatchers. You take one look in their eyes
and realize they are gone."
This is not a new debate. The forces supporting academic freedom and university independence have
been losing this battle for decades.
In the 1980s, the genetic engineering explosion brought with it a flood of "faculty entrepreneurs."
Scientists in UC labs made breakthroughs -- then formed their own companies. A 1982 Natural
Resources Defense Council complaint triggered a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation over
alleged misuse of public funds. There were congressional hearings (the House subcommittee was
chaired by then-Rep. Al Gore).
A "summit meeting" was held by Harvard, UC, MIT, Stanford and Cal Tech presidents -- in secret, of
course -- at Pajaro Dunes (Monterey County). That gathering produced only platitudes. But state
regulations were eventually promulgated requiring UC scientists to publicly disclose their financial stake
in government-funded research. Conflicts of interest were disallowed.
Yet these and other reforms have done little to stem the tide of corporate money into universities --
right when government funds have been cut back. Corporate gifts and grants have more than doubled
over the past two decades. In 2001, the American Council on Education and the National Alliance of
Business jointly released a two-year study urging closer ties between universities and private
Conflicts of interest? What conflicts of interest? Ignored was the argument that, as journalist Jennifer
Washburn notes in her book "University Inc.," such deals "undermine the foundation of public trust on
which all universities depend." Do they? The public seems asleep at the switch.
The BP deal takes this "deal with the devil" one step further. In a break from the past, universities now
usually at least hold onto the intellectual property rights to publicly funded research. And they license
their results to more than one company. Not this time. BP will actually co-own, and may even get
exclusive rights to, licenses underwritten by your tax dollar. BP then will likely charge you monopoly
prices for products developed with your nickel.
But why shouldn't they? After all, 50 BP scientists will be working right there on campus. We will
have a new UCBP.
Wonder what this means for the football team? Go Bears!
Los Angeles attorney Al Meyerhoff in the 1970s sued the University of
California on behalf of family farmers and farmworkers for developing
machines like the gamma-ray lettuce harvester. He won. Contact us at
Copyright 2007 SF Chronicle
Regrettably, Al Meyerhoff, 61, passed away on December 21, 2008, of complications from leukemia. We invite you to read his last
article entitled Our Champions, our Killers, (which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on December 28, 2008). Please click below.
Science for Sale at UC Berkeley
-- Also Known as UCBP --
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